May 2024 Leader Letter

Make it More Personal

Foster genuine connection with four communication basics.

By Kiki Jones

People sitting and laughing

When is the last time you paused to think about interacting with a personal touch? Whether you’re in the middle of a project or a term of service, it can be easy to get caught up in the demands of the work and forget to consider how you’re connecting. It’s time for a communication reset! Use these four techniques to brush up on your interpersonal communication skills:

Present confidently. When you communicate a plan with your team, you typically want to inspire collaboration and/or action, ideally through confidence. One of the simplest techniques to presenting with confidence and a clear head is to first ground yourself with three deep breaths. On each breath, exhale for twice as long as you inhale. Also, while you’re speaking, make eye contact and keep an open posture with arms and legs uncrossed.

Listen attentively. When others offer input, stay mentally present and actively listen to what they say. It’s tempting to start formulating your response before they finish speaking, but taking the time to fully digest what they’ve said before considering your answer will allow them to feel heard and inspire them to show you the same courtesy when you respond.

Give feedback kindly. As a Toastmaster, you know that feedback is essential for personal growth. Have you thought about the quality of non-speech related feedback you’ve given recently? In his article “Kind vs. Nice Communication,” Ben Guttmann reminds us of the importance for giving kind, constructive feedback. He suggests that you ground yourself in empathy, focusing on one thing the person did well, and one thing the person needs to improve. In your feedback, clearly state the benefit of your suggestion and why this specific input is helpful for them.

Receive feedback gracefully. On the other side, strive to receive feedback the same way you hope others receive yours. This may be easier said than done when a person isn’t mindful to phrase their thoughts tactfully. If you notice yourself feeling a visceral reaction to a person’s comments, go back to grounding yourself with a few deep breaths. Remind yourself that you and the other person share a goal of making the initiative or project as successful as possible, and they likely don’t know how to give quality feedback! Ask any clarifying questions you need to and thank them for taking the time to be constructive.

Additional Resources:

Kind vs. Nice Communication

Can a Personality Test Make You a Better Communicator?

Speaking Across Cultures

The Keys to a Confident Voice